There’s something to be said for taking the less beaten path and exploring the tranquillity and peacefulness of some of the more rural locations that the Algarve has to offer.
Here we will list some of our favourite locations and some top reasons why we believe they are worth a visit:
Just a few kilometres from this little market town are the Serra de Monchique – rolling mountains, heavily clad in heavy forestry. It is a fantastic place for hikes and has several summits you can climb, including the peak of Foia, which at 902 metres is the highest point of the Algarve, offering incredible views to the south and west coasts.
Demonstrating a slower pace of life, the narrow cobbled streets and whitewashed houses are lovely to walk around. Right in the town centre, you have the towns main church – Igreja Matriz, which despite not being at the coast, certainly demonstrates a nautical vibe. Its Manueline style doorway is a thing of beauty.
This town is also known as a spa town, with thermal waters that have long been seen to cure a wide variety of ailments from skin complaints, to arthritis. Caldas de Monchique is the place to go if this is something that is of interest to you!
Vila do Bispo
This is located to the extreme south-west of Portugal and while it is a small village, it does have 2 banks, a small supermarket, a medical centre and several small shops, so visitors are well catered for!
Narrow streets and whitewashed houses make up this lovely little village. There are several little cafes and restaurants available – especially if seafood is your thing.
This little village tends to be popular with walkers – it forms part of Costa Vicentina Natural Park and as such offers a variety of nature trails to explore.
There is a small 18th-century church if you’re more into exploring the religious or architectural aspects of the village.
This village is easily accessible via the expressway (N125) that runs through the Algarve and will take you right to the village.
Less than 10 kilometres from Faro lie the cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and terracotta roofs of Estoi.
Just a short walk from the main square is the Palacio do Visconde de Estoi, a 19th-century palace, featuring an eye-catching pink facade. It has now been turned into a luxury hotel, however, it does have beautiful gardens with stunning fountains that you are free to walk around.
There is also the ruins of the Roman Villa of Milreu, with the remains of columns, temples, mosaics and an old bathhouse.
You could also view the Igreja Matriz, a lovely example of neoclassical architecture and it’s rumoured that the alter is made from wood from old boats!
Santa Barbara de Nexe
A little village set on the site of a Bronze Age hill fort. It has all the essential facilities that visitors would be looking for – a small selection of shops, post office, bank etc.
While here, you have to visit the beautiful church, it is closed on Mondays and Saturdays (so take note of that if you do wish to visit it) and is open 11.30 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Friday and for only an hour 10 – 11 am on Sunday. The 400-metre bell tower has inspired paintings from many Portuguese artists and the bells can be heard ringing out all across the little village. The church is a stunning example of a mix of Neoclassical and Renaissance styles.
Sao Bras de Alportel
This tranquil town features a juxtaposition of streets of the traditional whitewashed houses but also demonstrations of more substantial buildings, with tile decorated facades, ornate stonework and cast-iron verandas. This heralds back to the area’s prosperity during the cork industry boom!
In the main square, Largo Sao Sebastiao, there is a covered produce market from which you can buy a variety of fresh fish, cheese, fruit and veg etc. There are also a variety of little pavements cafes, perfect for a rest while trying a delicious Portuguese pastry.
There is also an Ethnology Museum, demonstrating a variety of artefacts from the Victorian age, through to more contemporary offerings. There’s a variety of exhibits and relics to view.
Just a few kilometres from Europe’s most south-western point, this little town really gives a remote feel.
It has a little town square, featuring its working harbour, a small supermarket and a small selection of bars and restaurants for tourists.
Unlike many of the other locations on this list, Sagres has beaches – 5 to be exact! Praia da Mareta is the main beach and generally the busiest. If you like surfing, Praia do Tonel to the northern side would be a good option for you. The quietest beach is Praia do Martinhal which is located just outside of Sagres, to the east, and as such is quieter and a great spot if you’re looking for somewhere to relax!
There is a lot of history to this area, particularly in regards to Henry the Navigator. His Fortaleza can be seen to the north of town. There is also a small chapel and the Rosa dos Ventos – a pebble wind compass, nearby too.
Located on the banks of the River Arade, this town is home to the best-preserved Moorish castle in the Algarve. It sits atop a hill, overlooking the town, providing some of the most incredible views as a result. There is also a Moorish style garden within the grounds of the ruins.
Silves cathedral is also worth a visit, with the tombs of many bishops and crusaders who helped get this area back from Moorish control here.
There is a market held on the riverfront early every morning from which you can purchase a wide variety of fresh produce. There are also a wide variety of outdoor cafes, where you could sit and take in the amazing scent from the nearby orange groves!
This little village is situated in the Olhao region of the Algarve. It is situated not far from Cerro de Sao Miguel and as such is popular with hikers looking for brilliant walks and summits to tackle. The summits also provide some fantastic views!
There is an olive oil farm in the region, with lines and lines of olive trees, as far as the eye can see. You can attend a tour here, where you learn all about the process of making olive oil and can even try a selection of different olive oils.
Moncarapacho has a small museum, easily identified by the old stoneware out front. While small it does have a good selection of different antiquities. There is a tour available which can be given in either Portuguese or English. There are examples of Roman, Visigoth and Arabic artefacts. There is no entry fee, but they always appreciate any donations. It is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 1 pm, then 2 pm to 4 pm.
Set in a beautiful location, overlooking the River Guadiana, just across the border from Spain. Remains of a Moorish castle and walls dominate the town and provide incredible views across the town and over the river to Spain. There is also a little museum that you can visit to see some brilliant examples of local archaeology of times gone by.
It is a beautiful town, full of cobbled streets, whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs. There are some beautiful blue painted motifs and stunning geometric patterned facades.
The 18th-century church, Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Martires, here is beautiful. It has an incredible dome which can be seen for miles, as well as an impressive bell tower. There is another church, Igreja de Misericordia, which is definitely not anywhere near as impressive from the outside, but the interior is breathtaking and definitely worth seeing!
A lovely little village in the Albufeira region of the Algarve, it features some lovely architecture.
The Castle of Paderne is a 13th-century example of Moorish occupation within the area. Now in ruins, the sandstone castle gives lovely views over the Quarteira River. How to get to the castle is well signposted from when you first enter Paderne.
While making your travels to Paderne Castle, you’ll come across the medieval Paderne bridge, originally built in the Middle Ages, it is a rectangular bridge, over 3 arches. You can see 1711, engraved in the central arch, which is the year the bridge was first renovated. There is a walking tour available that will actually allow you to take in the bridge, an old mill and a fountain that at one point supplied water to the village before you finally end up at the Castle. It is a good 2-hour walk in total!
Don’t worry, there are several cafes/restaurants to enjoy a well-deserved meal and drink in afterwards!
What a little hidden treasure this river town is! It is still entirely economically dependent on agriculture and handicraft and as such, you’ll find several shops selling a variety of pottery, blankets and rugs.
The narrow streets and small white houses are so picturesque. There are a few small restaurants available for visitors to the area. It is situated near the River Guadiana and as such you could even catch a small ferry across to Spain!
The ruins of Alcoutim castle are worth a visit. Like many places in the Algarve region, the ruins demonstrate when Alcoutim was under Moorish occupation. There are some amazing views to be seen from this vantage point!
This little town would be a good spot for people interested in nature, there are many nature trails to be found in this area and a variety of plants and wildlife that may not be so easy to see in more heavily occupied areas of the Algarve.
If you’re looking for somewhere to go for a swim in this area, please avoid the Guadiana river, the currents here can be very strong and even experienced swimmers could see themselves getting into trouble here very quickly!
There is, however, a river beach just northwest of Alcoutim called Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo, which provides a lovely area if you are looking for somewhere to have a quiet swim.
Situated in the hills, 13 kilometres north from Loulé, this little village features lovely, traditional white homes, nestled in the Serra do Caldeirão hills.
Worth a visit is the ruins of Salir castle, a Moorish castle, now all that is left is a tower and two walls. However, there is also a small museum which features a glass floor, where you can look down upon some of the ruins of the previous castle.
Many people will know that Portugal as a whole has a strong catholic religion, however, if you take a wander from Salir into the Serra do Caldeirao hills, you’ll come across a Tibetan Buddhist community. At the highest point within the hills, you’ll come across a Stupa (heap) of five rocks or pebbles – the first of its kind in Portugal, which is seen as a point of positive energy and a symbol of our potential to reach enlightenment. It’s certainly a peaceful spot to visit.
This traditional little market town was originally founded as a Roman fort.
Loule Museum is definitely worth a visit. It is within the walls of the old Moorish castle and built on the site of an old 13 or 14th-century fort. It holds a variety of interesting artefacts from Roman and Medieval times and also provides some lovely views of the old town.
Within the central Praca da Republica, you’ll find the town’s undercover Arabian inspired market, in a rather striking pink domed building. You’ll find a huge variety of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to random bric-a-brac. This is also joined by a gypsy market every Saturday.
There are many vibrant, bustling shopping streets surrounding the market area, which lead off to a variety of alleys that remain untouched since medieval times!
Mostly peaceful, it does come alive at the weekends with the markets, so if you’re looking to go when quiet, then going during the week is your best bet!
As demonstrated, there are many rural Algarve locations, often ignored by most tourists! However, we hope this list may have given you some inspiration of alternative spots to visit on your next trip to the Algarve!